Spreading sunshine in dark times
Amidst the craziness and stress of being isolated from the rest of the world, local resident Rebecca Swearingen found a way to bring some sunshine to local veterans who are housebound.
"I was looking for positive ways to help people who are being bombarded with bad news and scary stuff," Swearingen said.
Her husband, Dan Swearingen, is the president of the Prineville chapter of the Band of Brothers, a local veterans group. The group is all about veterans helping veterans, with a current membership of 903. They meet each Thursday morning at the Elks Lodge in Prineville. Breakfast is served from 7 to 8 a.m., and the meeting starts at 8:30. They salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and listen to the invocation.
Rebecca is the roster keeper for the group, and she has had the opportunity to get to know a lot of the members through that role.
When gathering restrictions were imposed, the group — which usually attracts more than 100 veterans — couldn't meet, not even the board. For many, it's an important social event and a way to fellowship with their fellow veterans, Rebecca said.
"It's hard on the board, who tried to find different ways to connect and touch base with the veterans," Rebecca said.
When the board compiled a list of the higher-risk folks in the group and began to make contact, Rebecca thought it might be an opportunity to give them care packages.
"I came up with the idea of giving them something fun to do," she said. "We can't go talk to each other in person, but we can leave something on their porch to brighten their day. We have been calling it 'Operation Sunshine.'"
She began to search for fun items to put in bags such as simple games, coloring books and silly putty. She chose yellow and orange bags to emulate the color of sunshine.
Rebecca wiped the items with sanitary wipes before putting them in the bags. They she and other board left the bags on the veterans' porches.
"We stepped away, so weren't handing things directly to anyone. We left it on the porch and backed up," she said. "Most people answered the door, came out and picked it up and yelled, 'Thank you."'
Rebecca added that she and Dan followed up with those they knew couldn't come and answer the door.
"One person had said something to the effect of, 'It was fun to be in that 2-to-4-year old age category for a while, by playing with the toys and looking at things differently."'
The Swearingens recently stocked up on supplies again to put together at least 20 more bags, which makes a total of 30 sunshine bags. Rebecca also noted that they have added the caregivers to their list of who is checking in and taking care of veterans.
"As a thank you for what you are doing to take care of our veterans," Rebecca said, "we added some of those folks to the list too.
"It's really been fun to hear that it's brought smiles to people's faces that might not have a lot to smile about right now."
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